Motors for the moon and drives for NASA

How Krebs & Aulich GmbH drives the future

“Strange electric machines” can be found under the Krebs & Aulich GmbH company name. The “strange” is appropriate because the motors, which are developed in the small town of Wernigerode in Saxony-Anhalt, really are an exotic species among drives. Electric machines for highly specific requirements arise here. Some of them have great things ahead of them: they are built for a journey to the moon.

Research & development for the future of mobility

The development of drive systems is the company’s pet project. Krebs & Aulich is heavily involved, for example, in the development of solutions in the field of e-mobility. A hub motor for hybrid buses was thus developed, and twelve Audi A2s were converted to a purely electric drive system during the course of a research project. A field test for this is currently running in Harz. Private individuals, administrative bodies and companies are using these electric Audis, and the employees at Krebs & Aulich are checking at regular intervals how the batteries age, how they behave in the heat or the cold. “We are working on comprehensive solutions for the mobility of tomorrow,” says Martin Sobczyk, “and we are delighted to be able to help to shape the future of mobility at the crucial point.”

Technology leader in test bench motors

Krebs & Aulich began 20 years ago with two men. Today, there are 70 employees in the workforce. The company is now an internationally successful specialist in electric drives. In its research laboratory, the company figures out, develops and builds electric machines for a wide variety of requirements – from brainstorming through to prototypes. “The company’s three biggest fields of business are test bench motors, hydro power generators and e-mobility,” explains Martin Sobczyk.

Krebs & Aulich has garnered an impressive reputation in the construction of test bench motors. “We are a global technology leader. Every car manufacturer which develops drives or components for this tests with machines from us,” says Martin Sobczyk, not without pride. The starting point twelve years ago was Porsche AG, which gave Krebs & Aulich the contract for the production of a test bench. By now, more than 1,000 of this type of systems are installed around the world. Today, test bench motors from Krebs & Aulich run in Japan, China, the USA and Europe – anywhere where mobility is researched and developed.

From the design of the algorithms to calculation of the magnetic circuit, from design through to manual production of the individual parts, all of the major processes for the production of a test bench motor are brought together under one roof at Krebs & Aulich. “We are the bespoke tailors, so to speak, among motor builders and are able to take almost all wishes and special features into account until shortly before production of a test bench,” says Sobczyk. The team is also constantly working on expanding the application limits: here, it is about the highest speeds (up to 30,000 revolutions/minute), the least amount of noise and vibration possible, special housings for restricted assembly areas, or specific thermal conditions at motor test benches.

From test bench motors to generators – movable hydroelectric power systems

The specialists have now been carrying over their experience in the construction of extremely high-performance machines into the field of generators for ten years. Together with the partner company HSi from Trier which, like Krebs & Aulich, is part of Ceterum-Holding GmbH, movable hydroelectric power systems with extremely high efficiency have been being built for local and regional power generation since then. These systems can be installed in existing weirs. There, they not only generate power, but also meet the highest ecological requirements, as Martin Sobczyk explains: “Our hydroelectric power system is compact and movable, water flows over and under it. The advantage is that fish and small organisms migrating up or down rivers can guaranteeably get through. Leaves, branches or plant remains are also transported onward by the water.” Even in the event of flooding, the movable hydroelectric power system can generate power. Movable hydroelectric power systems are already in use at nine locations in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, and approval procedures are ongoing for other weir systems. “Patience is needed here,” says Martin Sobczyk. “These procedures sometimes take up to four years, but the implementation is then very quick.”

Bespoke tailors among motor builders – for outer space too

Still, the developers at Krebs & Aulich like to rise to completely different, particular challenges. That’s why they are already tinkering with a small motor which, in a few years, will be send to the mood with a satellite. “The project is called “Luna-Driller,” explains Dr. Martin Sobczyk, Managing Director of Krebs & Aulich GmbH. “We are providing the drive for a drill rig which will study the composition of the lunar rock.” The motor, which is expected to begin the long journey in 2023 or 2024, is unassuming. “It has to be small, but high-performance, and it has to withstand unfavourable conditions such as dust, extreme heat or extreme cold.”

The fact that a piece of Saxony-Anhalt will fly through outer space sounds fascinating. “Jobs like this are spectacular and appealing, of course. We are happy to take on such special projects,” says Martin Sobczyk and references the compensation system for helicopters which was developed for the German army and the drive components for the infrared stratospheric telescope (Sofia). The latter came about during the course of a collaboration between NASA in America and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), is built into a Boeing 747 SP and delivers images from the depths of outer space. The infrared images allow astronomers to gain new insights into the birth and death of stars and about the emergence of galaxies and planetary systems.

Author: Dana Toschner